The Facebook Button Is Back On Phones: Nokia Puts Social Networking Knobs On ~$62 Series 40 Asha 205, 205 Dual-SIM Qwerty Handsets

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Amid all the Windows Phone, luridly coloured Lumia hype, it’s easy to forget Nokia sells a far more successful line of mobile phones, based on its Series 40 OS. While it sold just 2.9 million Microsoft-powered Lumias in its fiscal Q3, sales of Nokia mobile phones totalled 76.6 million during the quarter — of which 6.5 million were its Asha full touch phones.

For a little more context, Nokia says there are 675 million “current users” of Nokia Series 40-based phones globally.

Full-touch Ashas are only a portion of the Asha range — which runs to 12 phones in total. Or it did until today as Nokia has just added another two new models to the range, due to launch in Q4: namely, the Asha 205, and a dual-SIM variant (called, obviously enough, the Asha 205 dual-SIM) which has two SIM slots to support multiple SIMs. These latest Ashas are Qwerty devices, not touchscreen handsets. But unlike previous Qwerty Ashas, such as the 201 and 302, they feature a dedicated Facebook button on the front — for jumping straight to your social network profile.

These are the first Facebook buttons Nokia has added to any of its phones.

Asked whose idea the Facebook button was — Nokia’s or Facebook’s — Neil Broadley, Director, Technology Marketing, of Nokia’s Mobile Phones division, told TechCrunch the button was developed in “joint collaboration” with Facebook. “It’s very much something we’ve developed in partnership with Facebook. It’s been a joint collaboration throughout,” he said, adding: “We talk very closely with Facebook in terms of looking at the opportunities we have.”

Of course, this is not the first Facebook button to appear on a phone. Back in 2011, HTC unboxed two phones with dedicated Facebook buttons, the HTC ChaCha and HTC Salsa — and that launch was accompanied by a video message from Zuckerberg talking up “deep social integration” as his mobile strategy of choice, rather than the fabled ‘Facebook phone’. Last year Orange and Vodafone also fired forth some own-brand handsets with Facebook buttons on board, including the Orange Alcatel One Touch 908F, Orange One Touch 813F, Orange One Touch 585F and Vodafone 555 Blue. (And most recently Orange has partnered with Facebook on a social calling service called ‘Party Call‘.)

This year, phones with Facebook buttons have been as rare as hen’s teeth — or they were until Nokia decided Facebook-branded knobs were exactly what its latest Asha phones needed. It describes the pair as the “most social” Ashas it’s made, noting they also come preloaded with a Twitter client — developed by Nokia in “partnership” with Twitter — and the eBuddy chat app.

As with other Ashas, the phones target mobile users on a budget, or who have other constraints to consider (such as limited access to high-speed data connections), and include technology such as Nokia’s Xpress Browser, which compresses webpages by up to 90 percent before delivering them to speed load times and shrink data downloads, and support for web apps such as Nokia Nearby (which taps up Nokia’s mapping assets and cell-tower positioning to offer location-based services to phones that lack GPS).

Both 205 handsets cost around $62 each, before taxes and subsidies, which Nokia said is around $10 cheaper than its previous “most affordable” Asha, the 201.

When Nokia introduced the Asha range, at Nokia World 2011, the launch focus was on developing countries, rather than mature mobile markets like Western Europe. But the rollout of Asha has been a far more global affair — the range is available in 132 markets globally, including markets in Europe such as the U.K. (Nokia claims existing Asha models feature in the top 20 handsets “in terms of volume” in the U.K. market.) Similarly, these latest Ashas will get the same 132 global markets rollout, although Nokia said the markets where it will hold launch events for the pair are India, Indonesia and Nigeria.

Slam

A new feature, developed by Nokia, which is included on the Asha 205 devices is called Slam. This is designed to make it easier for phone owners to share content from one handset to another — again, with the constrained scenario of not necessarily having high-speed cellular networks on tap, or even Wi-Fi on board (the Asha 205 handsets don’t have 3G or Wi-Fi).

Slam is effectively a simplified Bluetooth transfer, dispensing with the need to pair handsets before you can share content. The system just detects the closest compatible device and pairs automatically, before prompting the user to accept whatever content is being shared. So to send content via Slam you put your handset next to your buddy’s phone before hitting the ‘Send via Slam’ option.

Nokia said Slam works over devices with Bluetooth 2.1+EDR — so sending content isn’t just limited to the new devices announced today. Content can also be sent to Android devices, according to Nokia. It said you don’t need to have Slam on your handset to receive files; you just need Bluetooth.

Nokia 206, 206 dual-SIM

In addition to the Asha 205, and Asha 205 dual-SIM, Nokia is also beefing up its line of non-Asha Series 40 devices, with two new models: the 206 and 206 dual-SIM also announced today. These are in a range it brands simply ‘Nokia’ (plus the model number). The candy bar style 206 handsets come in a range of bright, Lumia-inspired colours (as well as black and white), and have a slightly larger screen (~10%) than existing Nokia phones of this type, such as the X2-02.

Nokia says these phones are designed for people who want a simpler mobile device mostly for talk and text. There’s no fancy Facebook button, but the 206 devices do include a Twitter client, plus the Nokia Xpress browser (and support for web apps). They also support Slam sharing.

As well as a low price-tag — also pegged at $62 before taxes and subsidies — battery life is a key feature for these devices, says Nokia. The 206 devices offer 47 days of standby time, and 20 hours of talk time — an important feature for markets (or scenarios) where electricity is not a commodity. So that could be rural regions of Africa, or a three-day music festival in Somerset.

Asked whether it has big plans for further expanding its S40 portfolio, Nokia said to expect “a lot of things” over the next year based on Series 40.

Nokia’s release follows below

ESPOO, FINLAND–(Marketwire – Nov 26, 2012) – The new Nokia Asha 205 is the first Nokia device to feature a dedicated Facebook button

Facebook and Nokia have today announced an innovation with the introduction of a built-in Facebook button available on the new Nokia Asha 205.

Introduced today, the Nokia Asha 205 is the first Nokia phone that includes a dedicated Facebook button, designed for people who want the fastest, one- click access to popular Facebook features.

“People around the world use Facebook Mobile to connect and share with their friends,” said Javier Olivan, head of growth, engagement and mobile for Facebook. “We are focused on delivering the best Facebook experience to as many people as possible and our partnership with Nokia perfectly complements our strategy of giving people around the world a rich Facebook experience for keeping in touch with their friends.”

“Globally, young consumers have increasingly started using Facebook for socializing, keeping in touch and striking new friendships. The launch of the Nokia Asha 205 responds to this growing demand and gives them a unique option for accessing Facebook while on-the-go,” said Timo Toikkanen, executive vice president, Mobile Phones, Nokia. “We have seen that many people who use Nokia Asha devices are hyper-social and we are proud to partner with Facebook to improve the user experience of those consumers further with the introduction of the Facebook button.”

The new Nokia Asha 205 enables people to easily access the Facebook for Every Phone app and use messaging, one of its most popular features. People using the messaging features in Facebook for Every Phone can now:

* See which of their friends are online to start chatting with them right away

* Start messages and group chats fast

* Reach more of the people they know, wherever they are, no matter what device they are using

People using the Nokia Asha 205 can also easily access other Facebook features, such as sharing photos and status updates with their friends, so they can stay close to the people around them with the touch of a button.